It’s a beautiful thing when we manage to get swerved so many times in a story, we’re never quite sure which way is up.
10 Cloverfield Land manages to surpass its original in this sequel that really isn’t a sequel to begin with thanks to some strong performances and a storyline set up that proves that monsters really do come in many forms.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is getting ready to start her life anew as she sets off leaving her boyfriend Ben, but she doesn’t even know the half of it. After a violent car accident, she finds herself locked in the basement of Howard (John Goodman) which is actually a fallout shelter who lets her know that he has saved her life in the aftermath of a chemical attack that has left the surface of the earth uninhabitable, but everything just doesn’t add up and she decides that her best chance of survival just might be to get the hell out of there by any means necessary.
It’s a movie that ropes us into a myriad of twists and turns and while the final reveal ends up being a mild but expected let down, 10 Cloverfield Lane plays so damn well with the subtleties of human frailty and puts us genuinely on edge for a ride that we won’t soon forget.
Veering from the traditional, director Dan Trachtenberg keeps the story moving quite well with some gripping visuals most of which happen in a confined area and knows how to keep us tense and always guessing through the use of a simple shot or “cut to” technique. It veers from psychological thriller to creature feature and back again with a fair amount of ease. Screenwriters Josh Campbell and Matthew Steucken don’t have a ton of experience but allow for us to buy into the universe that they have built making for a fairly tight ride and the moments of pure intensity also shine as 3rd screenwriter Damien Chazelle brings a sense of polish and power in the moments where it was absolutely needed. Combine all this with some tight and moody cinematography from Jeff Cutter and an impactful score from Bear McCready, all the elements are in place for some high octane entertainment. Granted the end reveal goes on for a little too long but it doesn’t take away from the overall fun factor of it all.
As always, John Goodman is underrated acting talent that never seems to quite get the due that he deserves. Here as Howard he walks a razor edge between misunderstood and REALLY fucking creepy. He bounces back and forth with an unparralled ease that is just a hell of a lot of fun to watch and is truly the heart of this scary story. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a perfect bit of casting opposite Goodman as she can shift from demur to ass kicking at the drop of the hat and it makes for a perfect counter point as these two characters duel in side this bomb shelter. Sadly John Gallagher Jr. gets wasted as the third wheel in the bunker and I won’t spoil it but there is a voice cameo that is so damn subtle I actually didn’t spot it until the end credits rolled.
While Cloverfield was much more straight ahead, 10 Cloverfield Lane gives us a unique and alternate skew on this universe. It makes for one hell of a fun ride as we try to decide what the lesser of two evils in this entire movie actually is and to find out what other tricks that executive producer J.J. Abrams might have up his sleeve for this series.